Monday, May 27, 2024

Freedom's Friends Finishes


Sharon A. Bennet

Appliqued by Georgann Eglinski, Quilted by Becky Collis.

Every year I design two Block-of-the-Month patterns, one pieced and one appliqued, on my blog Civil War Quilts. Two years ago we stitched Freedom's Friends. Georgann and Becky won a ribbon at our recent guild show with their version.

Tops are getting finished. Here's Nat Palaski's.
(Unlike some people Nat followed the pattern.)

Rebecca Schnekenburger did two versions.

Deanna Street added more patterns

And our Japanese follower at Thistly Room has solved the inches to meters
conversion problem by using my inch measurements as millimeters.
 (Making for some small blocks.)

Elly VD quilted and bound each block separately,
a "Pot-Holder Quilt."

Post here with links to all 12 free patterns if you want to make one.

More Finishes here:

Our Facebook Group

If you'd like to buy all the patterns now for $12 in a PDF to print yourself here's a link to my Etsy shop:

Nancy Benofske

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Baltimore Soldier Memorial Blocks

A new pattern based on vintage Baltimore blocks

The Mexican War of the 1840s rang many chords in Baltimore. The move to increase slave-holding Southern territory by annexing Mexican land west of Louisiana increased the U.S. territory by about 33%.

Quiltmakers showed religious and social affiliations, temperance enthusiasm and pride in the city in the appliqued album quilts they began making in the mid 1840s there.

Julie Silber's Inventory
A small quilt, perhaps assembled after 1880 when dyes for the border
were not as reliable as the earlier dyes for the blocks.

The quilt artists also captured warhawk sentiment with patriotic images such as eagles and flags. The most obvious allusion to the nearly 2-year war is seen in monuments to fallen heroes Major Samuel Ringgold and Colonel William H. Watson.

Cathy Erickson's Collection

I'd always assumed these architectural structures represented the martyred soldiers' tombs where they are buried but Baltimore Album Quilt expert Virginia Vis tells me the repeated image is of a cenotaph, a once-common word for a memorial that does not mark a grave.

"The Mexican War hero monuments were temporary structures in the open space of the Baltimore Merchants Exchange. The rifles were leaned up against the 'fence' around the structures with the names [to keep] the public at a distance...."
Colonial Williamsburg Collection

Merchants' Exchange (1815-1900)

I checked the newspapers of 1846 and found much about the temporary cenotaph constructed for Samuel Ringgold that was supposed to be 22 feet tall, constructed of wood by local builders the Gifford Brothers, topped with an eagle and draped for drama by a Baltimore draper named Shole. The rifles pictured in the quilt blocks were actual weapons propped up to define the space and add more martial reminders to the mix.

Baltimore Sun, December 18, 1846
Description of the journey of Major Ringgold's remains to the building's rotunda

Baltimore Museum of Art Collection

Ringgold and perhaps Watson lay in state near this structure for a few days in December, 1846 and then went on to less magnificent final resting places.

The BAQ History Crew has identified several quilts with the Ringgold memorial and two or three with the Watson reference. Imagery and fabrics in the blocks seem to fall into two major categories leading us to assume that at least two professional seamstresses offered their interpretations for the patriotic customer to include in her quilt. Were they kits, patterns or finished blocks?

Shelburne Museum Collection

We have no period photo of the monument in 1846. Twenty-two feet is about 2 stories tall, perhaps an exaggeration---although the rotunda with its dome could have accommodated a sculpture that tall. We can compare size in the rifles edging the scene. 

Union soldier with a Lohrenz rifle

The Springfield rifle of the time was 56 inches long. The structure in the Shelburne's Major Ringgold quilt is about twice the size making it a little taller than 9 feet--- impressive but not 2 stories.

D.A.R. Museum Collection
The second version of the memorial. No rifles---urns?
This one does have a taller appearance.

The Baltimore Daily Commercial ran this engraving of the monument, which seems to have few visual commonalities with the quilt blocks. 
The new pattern is derived from several of the original blocks.
Cut the background 15-1/2" square.

See more about Baltimore Album quilts and that war here:


Quilt in collection of the International Quilt Museum with 3 memorial blocks.

Friday, May 17, 2024

Octagonal Star Block--Or Not


Quilt that looks to be 1940-1960

Unusual pattern in that the star is in an octagonal block, which alternates with a small square. 

Similar to Eveline Foland's pattern for an octagonal pillow in the Kansas City Star in 1931.

But Foland's star points are split in half so the star and the shapes around it are the same.

The colors chosen create an odd result---rather noisy.

Blue calms things down.

And you might prefer a square block.

So here's a pattern for Celestial, a very calm 10" Star in a square block.

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Samantha at the World's Fair in 1893

Samantha and husband Josiah Allen at the 1893 
Columbian Exposition in Chicago. 

Next year we are going to piece a Block-of-the-Month based on women journalists who covered the Civil War and I've been reading about "The Petticoat Press." Marietta Holley was of a younger generation so I am not including her in the group of 12 female newspaper reporters. She wasn't a reporter but a successful feature writer who did humorous pieces, collected into books.

I was pleased to find her book-length account of country bumpkin Samantha, "Josiah Allen's Wife's"  visit to the 1893 World's Fair. For years Merikay Waldvogel and I have been studying the displays at that influential fair and have concluded that although many family tales and newspaper accounts mention a quilt hung there----very few were.

You had to be royalty as Samantha reported.

The most remarked upon textile was attributed to Mary Queen of Scots. See a post here on this elusive artifact: https://barbarabrackman.blogspot.com/2021/10/1893-columbian-exposition-quilts-2-16th.html

The illustrations are by Baron Constantin De Grimm who
did a great job imagining Queen Victoria packing up a few things.

 Like everyone else the Allens were impressed by the new Ferris wheel,
which was the inspiration for a name for these popular name quilts arranged
in wheel fashion....

Quilt dated 1909, Nebraska Project & the Quilt Index

...Perhaps the most significant quilt-related piece of history to come from that fair.

Quilt with many dates, probably from 1907.
Massachusetts project & the Quilt Index.

More posts on the 1893 fair:

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Anglo-Saxon Quilts #3: The "American Quilt"


 British Quilters’ Guild Collection
Detail, silk patchwork quilt dated 1718 found in Aldbourne, 
England in Wiltshire, about 75 miles west of London, 
showing English patchwork tradition,
quite familiar to the American eye.

At a time when bigots and pseudo-scientists emphasized difference in world cultures by gathering evidence in head shapes and facial characteristics....

Phrenologist measuring potential, Frank Dadd,1882

...Faddish misinformation became the "scientific" support of much bigotry.

In the midst of misinformation about potential and racially-inherited character, one could find many observable differences in U.S. regional customs and folkways. Nature rather than nurture was the popular theory explaining variety in living styles such as food choices, agriculture and how a home was set up and furnished. We now look more to "nurture' believing it's culture rather than genetics that dictates ideas as to whether pork is edible and how the bed was made.

Bedding and beds (our emphasis here) were quite diverse.

Museum Kastenbett
Traditional Austrian bed in a cabinet

Metropolitan Museum of Art
Embroidered bedcover, a colcha, signed & dated 1786 by 
Rosa Solís y Menéndez of Mexico

Nederlands Openlucht Museum
Dutch doll quilt, 18" wide, about 1800

Before 1800 patchwork bedding was not a common international solution to keeping warm at night. We could generalize and say the earlier pieced quilts were a product of the Netherlands and the British Isles, early colonizers of North America. The Dutch who sold their east coast real estate early to the English are often forgotten as patchworkers with most credit going to New England's crafters, descendants of the English refugees of the 17th century. New Englanders were ready to assemble scraps of cotton into bedding as soon as cotton scraps became common on both sides of the Atlantic in the last quarter of the 18th century.

Other immigrant groups and colonizers such as the French in Louisiana, the Pennsylvania Germans and the Californios had few pre-1830 traditions of patchwork bedding. Their descendants adopted patchwork from British neighbors. 

Freeman Auction
Quilt associated with the Vickers and Dare families, Maryland,
 dated 1845 a year before war with Mexico was declared. 
1840s innovations included red and green color schemes
and signed blocks assembled into patchwork albums.

In the last posts we looked at patchwork ideas during the 1840s, the decade of the Mexican War, when jingoistic ideas were used to make an argument for taking the vast southwest from Mexico. Americans were superior to Mexicans due to elite British genetics and culture. Patchwork quilts fit neatly into this hierarchy as they derived from a bedding style most associated with the British.

Lovely Lane Museum
1848, Baltimore

Mid-19th century political attitudes may have influenced the look of quilts---it's tough to find the threads of cause and effect. But the attitude certainly affected the way we look at quilts into the present day.

New Englander Harriet Beecher Stowe had much to do with quilts' association with English virtues and New England social life. In her 1859 novel The Minister's Wooing a quilting party is a major event. She had praise for the thrifty good wives of New England who created "stores of beauty and utility" in patchwork spreads. And praise for the descendants of Puritans with their Puritan educations and "solemn Puritan dwellings."

Stars in an 1844 sampler from Bangor, Maine

Of her heroine: "Mary had at heart the Puritan seed of heroism—never absent from the souls of true New England women." New Englanders were also Anglo-Saxons: Mary had an "Anglo-Saxon constitution, with its strong, firm intensity, its singleness of nature, wonders at the mobile, many-sided existence of warmer races...."

"The Minster's Wooing" was serialized in the Atlantic Monthly, a magazine founded in 1857 to advance what the New England founders called "The American Idea," from the region they consider the Olympus of U.S. culture. Stowe's initial serial novel contributed to that mythification, noted Joan D. Hedrick in her Pulitzer Prize winning biography of Stowe:

Colonial couple imagined in the 1940s
If one is going to believe in elite hierarchies, one also sees hierarchies within the social ladder. Anglo-Saxons were apparently the elite of the elite. 

That attitude was summarized in a mid-1840s endorsement for war hero Winfield Scott, "the very fellow for the head of [Mexican] government... Mexico will soon be Anglo-Saxonized." Not just Americanized or Britishized but Anglo-Saxonized. Take that you Celts and Normans, etc.!

1868 Virginia editorial looking back at 
Anglo-Saxon triumph in the Mexican War

Mexican War veterans First Lieutenant Pierre G.T. Beauregard and Major John Charles Frémont might disagree.

Anglo-Saxon quilts in the 14th & 15th centuries in
rather sloppy popular history from 1884. 
Readers would assume that Anglo-Saxons supplied
servants with the old patchwork quilt typical of the 1880s.

Quilt patterns and fabrics were designed to celebrate the connections. Most familiar may be what we still call a Lone Star, the symbol of the Texas Republic. See the last post:

Lone Star quilt with a Mexican War battle scene chintz
International Quilt Museum, 
Byron & Sara Rhodes Dillow Collection

Ruth Finley's chronology of politics is suspect but to her we owe
a good many of our ideas about pattern names and their supposed meaning.

Quilt date-inscribed 1832 & signed by Eunice Bailey 
What did quilters of Eunice's time call this pattern?
Ruth Finley professed to know a century later.

It's unsettling to see a craft used to support white/Anglo-Saxon supremacy but that connection became the standard verbiage, which tends to increase in intensity during periods of immigration from non-British countries.

In the early to mid-20th century popular quilt writing was valued more for mythology than accuracy. Nostalgia for an imagined colonial and pioneer past fed a sense of national pride. Patchwork quilts were survivors that seemed to support that argument. Curators, popular historians and pattern companies shaped their stories to fit the myth.

1934 Chicago Tribune

The fictional Nancy Cabot of the Chicago Tribune's quilt column was among the most fanciful of history writers. This pattern---an heirloom of the English colonist? unlikely---but a genteel association that at base is rather insidious.

Illustrations from The New Physiognomy by Samuel Wells
Too bad for you Scandinavians--- frankly, it's your chins.

Anglo-Saxons were, according to Anglo-Saxons, the apex of human development.

1826 lecture, Henry Thomas Alken

These three posts on the Anglo-Saxon quilt give us a little insight into our accepted versions of quilt history and why quilts are so pervasively associated with American identity. We aren't going to change the negative aspects of that but at least we can get a glimpse of why it's so.